Montreal was one of the most interesting cities I’ve ever been to. North American in so many ways, but European too. A blend of English and French languages, everyone seemed to speak both and switched back and forth with ease. One block you’d look like you were in any big city in the US, and just the turn of a corner automatically put you in some cute neighbourhood in Paris. Fantastic. Signs were in both French and English, and even Starbucks Frenched it up for the locals:
Café Starbucks Coffee.
My B&B was in Montreal’s famous Gay Village, and I was able to cross another item off my list of 103 Things: the Beaudry Metro Station!
Right on St. Catherine Street, the main drag through the Gay Village, the city designed the metro station with rainbow colours to fit in with the surroundings. Whenever you see a guide to gay Montreal, there’s almost always a photo of the Beaudry Metro Station thrown in for good measure.
The Gay Village was huge – the main drag just kept going and going and was full of bars, restaurants, and the occasional cute underwear store. Decorated with little pink globes above and heaps of diverse people below, the vibe was great.
Outside of the Gay Village, the streets were equally as lively and decorated too, albeit with less pink.
Heading out of the Village, we headed up Mont Royal on foot to get some exercise and take in some great views of the city:
Back down below, we headed into Old Montreal. If you hid from your sight the modern North American skyscrapers in the background and got rid of every trace of maple and you were dropped into this neighbourhood and not told where you were, you’d probably swear you were in Paris or Marseille or Lyon.
As is traditional of a French city, this one also has a Notre Dame:
And Montreal’s Clock Tower is a beautiful piece of architecture right on the St. Lawrence River. We climbed the 192 stairs to the top to get some stunning views.
Old buildings and Euro charm weren’t all. Habitat 67 – built for the World Expo (in 1967) was across the water. I had learned about this unique piece of architecture in my art history classes in high school and college and was excited to see it in person. Unfortunately, the walk to get there was quite long so we didn’t get any closer. But still. It was cool nonetheless.
There was also a “beach”!
A Christmas store? In July? We decided to check out because it looked cool, even to a Jew.
This wasn’t your average Christmas store. These ornaments were as gay as the cute guy behind the counter! If only I had a Christmas tree… and a few good pick-up lines in French!
Modern public art abounded even in the oldest parts of town, with centuries-old buildings seen though new, brightly coloured installations.
I was excited to visit Montreal because everything everyone has said about it was positively glowing, but I was a bit hesitant because of the French factor. Overall, the city was the perfect blend of two cultures – a big North American city infused with European culture and charm, or a French city without all of the obnoxious French people (and a Starbucks thrown in on every corner just to make it feel a little more like home). The only question I have after my visit: when can I go back?